The Power of the Press Release
Generating Effective Media Coverage Results
Do you need to write a press release about your company's newest
product, service or upcoming event?
INCOMPAS is here to help with our
step-by-step plan and
release components to assist you through the process.
Looking for someone else to take care of this important task?
Check out some of INCOMPAS' recent
release success stories, and
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Step-by-step Plan for Press Releases
effective press or media release is one of those tasks that initially
seems quite straight-forward – that is, until you actually sit down at
your computer to draft one yourself.
there’s the writing - a process that can instantly cause beads
of sweat to form on your over-stressed brow.
there’s the distribution – which organizations and specific
individuals should you send it to, should you fax it, e-mail it,
mail it or send it by courier? What should you include with your
there’s the follow-up – who will you call and what will you say?
How can you ensure that you will be creating the best possible
impression of your product, service and company without becoming a
pest? And finally, how can you ensure that your new product or
service is profiled accurately in the media?
STEP ONE – WRITING
A common challenge
in writing a press release is being too close to your products and
services to write about them effectively. Where do you begin? How much
detail should you include? How much history should you include? How do
you ensure that initially disinterested third parties will come to care
enough about your products and services that they will actually
do something to help you spread the word?
Ask yourself some key questions before you start writing and jot down
your answers without worrying about structure, spelling or tone:
makes your product or service so special? What makes it new?
would an editor care enough to want to publish your news? Why will you
customers care about this new product or service? List all the
reader/listener benefits you can think of, as well as the benefits to
the publication or show.
this news release actual news?
crafting a catchy, newsworthy headline that addresses the main
benefits to your target audience. Expect to spend some time developing
this headline because it is by far the most important line of your
entire release. A strong, all-encompassing headline also serves an
important outlining function and forces you to tighten your focus.
your first paragraph, conveying the most pertinent details of your new
product and service. Answer who, what, when, where and why using the
most convincing language at your disposal.
Throughout the release, keep your sentences short, eliminate passive
voice and write in second-person imperative (“Visit, See, Do, Buy,
You, Your, etc.”).
specific, powerful quotes and testimonials from key company
representatives and satisfied customers to underscore the quality and
durability of your new product and service.
the release with a sense of urgency about your news,
encouraging your readers into action. Make sure you list a contact
person at your company who is not only willing to answer
questions, but who also has strong communication skills and who is
able to reflect a positive, professional image to both the media and
a. How long
is your completed first draft? If it’s longer than a page, get out
your red pen and be brutal. Due to the volume of the material that
they must process every day, most editors will not even look at a
press release that’s longer than a page. It’s perfectly acceptable to
supply a company/product backgrounder with a press release, along with
descriptions and photos of related products and services (more on that
each sentence is short, active, punchy and positive. Use the shortest
possible transitions to tie your ideas together. Make sure your
paragraphs are short (no more than five sentences long).
your main points at five or under. Do not bombard the release with too
much information or too much detail. If editors want more information,
they can look for it in the background material that you send along
with the release, they can visit your website or they can call your
contact person directly.
editors and producers do their job as easily and effectively as
possible by eliminating the need for rewriting. If an editor has to
rewrite the release due to sloppily worded copy or a buried lead,
mistakes about your new product or service can easily be introduced.
If your release is well written, edited and proofread, your release
will have a better chance of getting published word for word.
someone else to proofread your release, searching for spelling,
grammatical and other errors. Be open to their feedback if they have
comments that extend beyond the scope of proofreading. If necessary,
edit or rewrite the release again. Be careful not to circulate the
release to too many people (too many cooks in the kitchen).
STEP TWO –
PACKAGING & DISTRIBUTION
After you have
finally produced what you think is a strong, effective press release,
then what do you do with it? How do you distribute it? Where and to
whom should you send it? How can you ensure that all the right people
– not just your target customers but newspaper and magazine editors,
as well as radio and TV show producers – will not only read it but do
something to help spread the word?
Compile a professional media support package to accompany your
release. Include some or all of the following:
collection of the best-quality images you have
backgrounder or profile outlining the history of your company,
products and services
testimonials that underscore the quality and effectiveness of your
product or service
product sample. Everyone likes a freebie, and editors and producers
are no exception.
Remember, your new
product or service could be published in a New Products section or it
could receive front-page coverage! The more professional and complete
your package the more likely you are to receive maximum exposure.
Take the time to research the market you want to reach. List all of
the relevant publications, newsletters, newspapers, TV and radio shows
that address that market. Track down addresses, e-mail addresses, web
site addresses, and find the right person to send your package to.
This may mean some online research or even picking up the phone and
calling the media outlet to find out the name of the right person; and
connecting with the right person at the outset will help you by
alerting him or her to your incoming release package.
a. E-mail –
This is the cheapest and easiest method of distributing your media
release, and it can be very effective. Remember, though, how easy it
is to press “Delete”. If you’ve sent your release to the wrong person
who doesn’t feel like forwarding it on, all your hard work and effort
will be trashed before it even reaches a person who can provide you
with effective coverage. Another limitation with e-mail is you are
assuming the editor will take the extra step of printing out or
copying your information to the working files for the
issue/show-in-progress. If you choose to distribute your release via
e-mail, remember to include all of your press release and photos in
the body of your e-mail. DO NOT send unsolicited attachments, as they
will be deleted before they’re even opened.
b. Fax –
Another cost-effective distribution method, faxes can sometimes be
misdirected to the wrong person in an organization, or they can be
trashed before they find their way to the editor’s desk. Another
limitation with faxes is that you cannot send photos or product
samples with your press release.
Mail/Courier – While these methods are both the most expensive means
of distributing your press release, there is nothing better than
experiencing the real thing. If you send your release via mail, you
can include good-quality images, lots of background information, and
even product samples, thus ensuring the best possible and most
positive exposure to your product or service.
STEP THREE –
It’s one thing to
write a strong press release and distribute it to all the right people
who address your target audience; ensuring these people will publish
or broadcast your information, giving your new products and services
the best possible exposure, is another thing entirely.
1. Pick up the phone. Wait until several days after the
editor/producer has received your press release package, then call
that individual to ensure that he or she has received it. Ask if there
are any questions, or if you can supply him or her with anything else.
Ask if he or she knows whether or not your product will get into the
next issue or onto an upcoming show. Ask if there is anything else you
can do to help the process along.
not be a pest, but keep yourself at the forefront of the
editor’s/producer’s thoughts. If more than a month will pass
between your sending along the press release package and the next
issue/show being published or produced, then send a friendly e-mail
(or call again if you feel comfortable doing so), reminding them about
your new product and asking if they know about whether or not the
information about the product will be published/broadcast. Always be
polite, do not take up too much time, and always thank them for their
time and assistance.
Call back and offer your sincere thanks for a job well done when you
do receive coverage. Pave the way for sending this person future
press release packages.
Press Release Components
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE, ALWAYS IN
CAPS – Place the newest, most noteworthy and important information
right up front, answering the “Who Cares?” question in your most
convincing possible way.
paragraphs, describe the “who, what, when, where and why” of the big
news. What does the news mean, why is it important, who will benefit
from it, how will it change the way things have been done before, when
does the event/news take effect, where will it take effect, etc.
“It’s also very
important to include an important quote from someone very influential
in the organization, such as a V-P or President,” says Mel-Lynda
Andersen, Press Release Writer Extraordinaire. “I’m also showing you
how the quote marks and punctuation works when you use quotes,” she
adds. “Remember, only include quotes that will enhance the importance
of the news you want to convey, give it increased significance, add
relevance to the scope of the news and its impacts on the free world."
Don’t forget to
include any major awards that the company has won in the past, which
pertain to news, or which might add to the company’s credibility in
the community the release is being sent to.
At the very end of
the press release make sure you include a contact person with a
telephone and website for more information. Make sure that person
knows he/she is being used in this way and will be prepared for any
phone calls that come in. And of course, don’t forget to centre the
number 30 below; I don’t know why they do this. I think it’s because
-30- was used in the old days of typewritten copy to indicate the end
of something. It still sort of looks impressive and works well as a
visual cue to end the press release.
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Press Release Success Stories